The Maryland baseball team opens up its 2018 season on Friday in Knoxville against the Tennessee Volunteers. There has been considerable turnover for the Terps in both their roster and coaching staff. However, much of the core nucleus from last season’s NCAA Tournament team remains and forms the base of the 2018 squad. Add in a number of high-profile freshman and transfers, and the Terps should be competitive in the Big Ten and on the national level.
Three things to know about Maryland’s 2018 baseball team:
1. While a core of talented players return this year, there has been considerable turnover. Five players from the 2017 were drafted (Brian Shaffer, Kevin Smith, Ryan Selmer, Jamal Wade, and Jared Price); five players transferred to another program (among whom only Dan Maynard and Andrew Miller saw significant playing time in 2017); and seven players graduated. Meanwhile, the current team has 18 freshmen or transfer players.
Incoming freshmen that could have an immediate impact include RF/LHP Randy Bednar, outfielder Richie Schiekofer, catchers Justin Vought and Ty Freidrich, as well as RHP Mark DilLuia. Right-hander Elliott Zoellner and infielder Tommy Gardiner could also see extensive playing time. JuCo transfer Taylor Wright (from Vancouver, BC) will start at third base and was dazzling this past summer in the West Coast League, leading the league in homers, runs and RBIs.
2. Maryland will go as far as pitching can take it. There’s no doubt that the Terrapin bats are going to make quite a bit of noise this season. But in order to reach Omaha, the Terps are going to need the most out of the pitching staff.
Taylor Bloom will be the Friday starter. Although he had a rough junior year, Bloom seemed to regain his form down the stretch. Tyler Blohm will seek to build on a successful freshman campaign and is slotted to pitch on Saturdays. The Sunday starter is Hunter Parsons, who is primed to deliver on the promise he showed as a freshman. John Murphy is the announced closer, and freshman right-hander Mark DiLuia will start midweek games. Ryan Hill is an important piece of the bullpen, as are Elliott Zoellner and Sean Fisher.
3. The Terps’ Big Ten road games are going to be brutal. Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, and Indiana will test the Terps’ mettle on the road. Most college baseball outlets have Indiana, Nebraska and Maryland contesting for the Big Ten crown. Consequently, the last two conference series for the Terps could determine which of those teams wins the regular season title. Maryland had to travel to Omaha and Bloomington last year, and they are tough parks to play in. Michigan State’s stadium has a peculiar slope on the warning track, which could prove troublesome to visiting teams.
We will have more preseason coverage of the team, but here are some other links to help fill you in quickly. First up is our colleagues over at Maryland Baseball Network, who have written about how the Terps are relying on familiarity and what to take away from media day.
Assessments of Maryland’s chances in the Big Ten are at D1Baseball, College Baseball Daily, Perfect Game and Baseball America. Indiana is the consensus No. 1 team, with Maryland, Nebraska and Minnesota right behind the Hoosiers. Every preseason NCAA Tournament bracket projection that I’ve seen has the Terps safely within the field of 64.